Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sport

Why is Shock Linwood the key factor for the Baylor Bears offense

With the way defenses are playing the Baylor Bears this year, you can easily make the case that Shock Linwood is the Bears most important offensive player.

Saturday afternoon, the Bears saw their offense at peak efficiency when pressed to take the easy yards.  More and more, defenses are playing their safeties back to keep the Baylor receivers from burning them deep in a traditional bend-don't break defensive scheme. With these safeties back, the Baylor offense has two ways to attack.  

The first is through the air. Traditionally the corner backs will play off-coverage, either lining up 5-8 yards off the line of scrimmage and sometimes even back-pedaling on the snap.  With this look, the Baylor receivers are taught to run a 5-7 yard curl route, or even just turn at the line of scrimmage for more of a lateral pass.  

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These types of plays are designed to replicate the efficiency of a run play, pick up 5-yards and move onto the next down. It is a plus if you can get the ball to a play maker that can make a man miss and turn that 5-yard gain into something much more, like Corey Coleman did for the past three years at Baylor. 

The other way to beat this type of defense is through the ground and using the run game to take advantage of the deep safeties and fewer defenders in closer to the ball.  By counting the defenders in the "box" versus the number of blockers, the Bears will run when winning the mathematical chess match.  In this case, Shock Linwood is the King. 

This chess match has produced a top-15 rushing offense in 5 of the last 6 seasons.  This year they are ranked 8th in yards per game with 290.20, buoyed by their masterpiece this past weekend against Iowa State that saw them run for 469 yards. With the Cyclones playing to stop the pass, the Bears got little going down the field after the first quarter, passing for only 178 yards on 22 attempts.  When you average 7.6 yards per carry, you don't have to pass.  

With the running game setting the tone, the Bears turned to their senior starter and all-time leading rusher.  Shock was benched the previous week against Oklahoma State, giving way to Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty during the Bears victory.  It was the spark he needed to have the best game of his amazing career. 

Head Coach Jim Grobe said of his senior rusher, "I told Shock back in the hallway that this is the Shock Linwood that everybody told me about. This is the guy that everybody was talking about and we didn't really see that guy early. He got challenged when he didn't play a lot last week, and he had a great week of practice. That's typically what happens: You practice well, you play well. I was just happy for him."

Linwood has long been underappreciated as a runner. He isn't the power back, that would be Terence Williams. He isn't the speed back, which is JaMycal Hasty. Simply put, Linwood is an all-around runner with elite balance and vision.  With Shock leading the way, the other 2-parts of the Bears three-headed running back group fit into their perfect roles.  

Hasty can come in and provide some spark and speed at the position, while Williams will enter the game closer to the goal line or when the Bears need the tougher yards.  Linwood doesn't need that burden and neither Hasty or Williams are ideal for an every-down role at this point of their careers.  They are best suited to play the roles they are now. 

What Shock Linwood allows them to do is fit into the pieces of the puzzle making up the Baylor running attack, one that is as powerful as any in the nation when it is right.  It is why Linwood is the Baylor all-time leading rusher with 3,916 yards and counting. His next touchdown will also give him the career rushing touchdown record as well.  

With the Baylor scheduled back-loaded once again with their stiffest tests, the re-emergence of the Bears running game with Shock Linwood as the feature player brings this offense back to the elite levels that the nation has become accustomed. 

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